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Opinion

Right of way

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

This is a case involving the easement of right of way. The questions resolved here is when and how the easement can be established and dissolved. This is the case of the spouses Mon and Tina against the spouses Ed and Vangie.

Mon and Tina once owned five parcels of land in a City up north. Two of their properties located in front of the three other properties provided sole access to the national highway. So the spouses Mon and Tina annotated on the Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs) an easement of right of way in favor of the properties at the back.

Later on, Mon and Tina obtained a loan from a bank and mortgaged the front properties. When they failed to pay the loan, the bank foreclosed and eventually acquired the mortgaged properties for failure of the spouses to redeem them.

Then, Ed and Vangie purchased the front properties from the bank and were issued TCTs, which bore the same annotations as those in the previous titles. However, they refused to recognize the annotated right of way and enclosed the properties to prevent Mon and Tina from accessing the national highway through the front properties.

Thus, Mon and Tina sued Ed and Vangie before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for Specific Performance to provide them a right of way to access the national highway, and for damages, arguing that they are entitled to the easement of right of way to access the national highway.

In response, Ed and Vangie contended that the right of way was invalid as it was constituted by Mon and Tina over the properties which they also owned before for their own sake. Moreover, they said that the easement has already been extinguished when the bank foreclosed and acquired the properties. They also contended that Mon and Tina had other access to the national highway and if they want an easement over their properties, they should be indemnified.

After the trial court conducted an ocular inspection, Ed and Vangie undertook to allocate one meter of the northeastern portion of the front properties as a right of way provided, they would be indemnified as Mon and Tina promised that they would not pass through the lot pending the final agreement.

The RTC therefore ruled that the issue on the validity of the annotated easement has become moot and academic because Ed and Vangie have voluntarily constituted a right of way on another side of the properties different from the easement annotated in the title. So, it rendered judgment constituting right of way on another side of the properties.

Ed and Vangie however appealed to the Court of Appeals contending that they were entitled to indemnity. They denied that an easement of right of way was constituted on the front properties and they only agreed to refrain from touching a meter on a portion of the property thinking that they might reach a settlement with Mon and Tina but they did not.

The Court of Appeals (CA) ruled in favor of Ed and Vangie reversing and setting aside the decision of the RTC in favor of Mon and Tina and dismissing their complaint. So, Mon and Tina appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that an easement was validly constituted under Article 624 of the Civil Code when it was annotated on the titles they previously owned and said annotations were never erased or removed. They also contended that, as property owners, they can establish easement in the manner and form they deem best.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mon and Tina and reversed the CA ruling. The SC declared that Article 624 of the Civil Code applies in this case. Mon and Tina created an easement on the front properties when they used a portion thereof to give their back properties access to the national highway and had it annotated on the titles of the front properties. When the bank acquired the front properties, it did not raise any objection against the easement and annotation. Thus, when said properties were sold to Ed and Vangie, their titles bore the same annotations as those of the previous titles of Mon and Tina. The path and annotations served as a title to the easement. The title would not have been conferred if the contrary were provided in the deed of transfer, or if the path and the annotations were removed before the deed of transfer was executed. Ed and Vangie were aware of the easement as it were annotated on the bank’s titles and on the titles issued to them. And despite this awareness they still purchased the properties with no showing that they objected to it at the time of transfer. So, a valid easement of right of way was constituted on the properties now owned by Ed and Vangie. (Spouses Fernandez vs. Spouses Delfin, G.R. 227917, March 17, 2021).

TCT

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